This week Rocket Lab completed a ‘Wet Dress Rehearsal’ of their Electron rocket at Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, Virginia, a major milestone ahead of their first launch from U.S. soil.
The WDR goes through an entire countdown. Electron rolled out to the pad, raised vertical and was then filled with high grade kerosene and liquid oxygen to verify fueling procedures. WDR provides additional “schedule confidence” for the actual launch day by helping to identify facility, vehicle or spacecraft issues which have evaded testing in good time for them to be rectified.
The company has already launched 14 missions to date from LC-1 in New Zealand, arguably the most beautiful LC in the world, and although a rideshare mission this summer failed to reach orbit the company has proven itself as a major player. So much so that NASA and the U.S. Space Force will entrust them.
Matter of fact, their first launch from LC-2 at Wallops Island will be a U.S. Space Force mission, in partnership with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division. the FAA also recently granted a Launch Operator License for Electron missions from LC-2.
The launch will also mark the first time a mission has flown from Wallops with Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) software, and NASA is currently conducting the final development and certification for that, before Electron can fly from LC-2.
According to Rocket Lab, once operational both LC-1 and LC-2 combined will allow for up to 130 launches per year, claiming an “unrivaled level of redundancy and assured access to space regardless of disruption to any one launch site.”
“Responsive launch is the key to resilience in space and this is what Launch Complex 2 enables,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and Chief Executive. “All satellites are vulnerable, be it from accidental or deliberate actions. By operating a proven launch vehicle from two launch sites on opposite sides of the world, Rocket Lab delivers unmatched flexibility and responsiveness for the defense and national security community to quickly replace any disabled satellite. We’re immensely proud to be delivering reliable and flexible launch capability to the U.S. Space Force and the wider defense community as space becomes an increasingly contested domain.”
At the same time, construction is nearing completion on the Rocket Lab Integration and Control Facility (ICF) at Wallops, which houses Rocket Lab’s launch control center, a state-of-the-art payload integration facility, and a vehicle integration department that “enables the processing of multiple Electron vehicles to support multiple launches in rapid succession” according to the company.